Blackwood & Bell Mysteries
- Release Date: 02/22/2012
- Developer: Playdom
- Genre: HOG
Blackwood & Bell Mysteries is the second HOG (hidden object game) title from Disney-Playdom following its initial hit on Facebook– “Gardens of Time”, which has been played, liked and recommended by millions of Facebook users and has claimed the championship in popularity. The third place is taken by Hidden Chronicles from Zynga, an expert in making social games. It’s obvious that Disney-Playdom is consolidating its HOG championship in Facebook with Blackwood and Bell Mystery.
The game takes a typical Victorian flavor, and names itself after the in-game detectives James Blackwood and Catherine Bell that will unfold a story richer than any of its predecessor.
There are four chapters in the game, six scenes each. Different from lovely scenes and single-mystery in many other games of this genre, Blackwood & Bell features a crime-related atmosphere with abandoned ghost ships and haunted Victorian mansions as the main scenes. And there is more than one crime to discover, where vampires are involved as well as wicked humans. Gamers seek to find clues, with distinct purpose.
Interaction between friends like daily gift-sending, visiting are still rewarded, and there are more duel competition where two players find clues against the timer.
HOG, as a long-term game, is still an underdeveloped genre. Too many stereotypes lie within the mechanic of such games, for some unknown reason. Well, as I see it, HOG makers are in dilemma. They have to make the trivial seeking tasks a serious matter or part of a serious matter. Meanwhile, the seeking can’t be too purposive to make the game a short-lived puzzle — the trivial part is the core part. Let’s have a look into Blackwood & Bell Mysteries, to see where it has reached.
First, BBM wants to look different. There are four chapters in the game, each with 24 scenes to unlock. The scenes are more dirty, items whether beaten, the atmosphere more sinister. Vampires and criminals appear to threat, to quarrel with the detectives and the player, the more gifted detective with special ability. But, honestly speaking, I hate the color of the light—unhealthy, reminiscent of frozen blood. I always think the beauty of a scene lies in the light rays. Without a healthy light effect, the most splendid hotel can smell of drainage. This is why you enter a cleanest restaurant and still feel unsafe. That’s to say, the game fail to be unhealthy while at the same time being beautiful sensuously. Still to be different, the two detectives, introduced as an American and a Londoner, are totally Asian from top to toe. Detective, characteristic of keenness and toughness, never relates itself with a mild Asian lady who is better at passive skills like patience, diligence and making peace. But why this game uses an Asian lady and an Asian man to accompany players throughout the game? Just to change a tune, to ease the tracking, analyzing of a criminal case and to ease the loneliness of searching a filthy place that any HOG can’t avoid. I mean, there have been too many western lady guides for such mystery games and western ladies, in my opinion, are more lonely and depressing than anything.
The game lets you earn XP, silvers (cheap and spent on compulsory items) and pieces of stars (the so-called achievement in other games) with quests. Replay is encouraged by giving accumulation-goal quests like “reach 2 star in deck”, “earn 9 stars in chapter one”. Another factor for level up is Reputation, which is actually a means of silver outflow and often leads you to adding gold (not earnable currency in the game).
One thing no less expensive than gold is energy. You buy it with money or with patience. It’s said that friends can help you out in many way, with a simple click, but friend help is limited in content, quantity and frequency. Wanna ask for energy 10 times a day? It’s daydream! Only once per day! But they do help a lot when a heavily-invested building needs his or her click to “finish”. You don’t know what requirements can pop out at the finishing click. But they are common in one thing—lead you to your account.
However tricky the mechanic can be, the core part of HOG can be trivial, and how the trivial things can be sweet and inspiring is my first concern. My attitude towards HOG is always changing. Sometimes I think seeking and finding trivial things is a serious interaction between human and nature. Sometimes they are human’s recognition with the items they have made and named. Sometimes the whole searching is just meaningless– the enclosed rooms make you feel detached. Well, the surprises BBM has afforded are by moving the target items further, blocked partly, covered with a net, and by making the items false(not just untypical), unlike or absolutely not the object responding to the name. For example, the book is wrapped with discolored red paper and put high on the slinging cable. I wonder how it stays there still without slipping down. The captain hat on the deck, so near to the eye but just impossible to recognize, and there is no reasons around it to make it that dazzling. It’s not tricks. It’s rascality.
In fact, I play Blackwood & Bell Mysteries simultaneously with another HOG – Hidden Haunts, which impressed me in an opposite way, careless in looks but qualified to make me feel teased pleasantly with its trickery. BBM, regarding the difficulty of seeking and reasons of such difficulties, fails to impress me very much.
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